I’ve recently been enjoying (and not enjoying) the movies of Michael Douglas.
It started with a viewing of Basic Instinct (1992) which I had not seen before. Ugh. It really is a terrible, terrible movie, reminding me a little of the Jackie Collins novels I used to read when I was in sixth form at Howick College during Geography. Orographic rainfall had nothing on my under – the – desk Secret Reading where women called Gina Germaine were performing graphically oral tasks on married men called Neil.
Basic Instinct is a Paul Verhoeven directed Joe Eszterhas written thriller that needs no introduction. Double ugh. Imagine these two together at The White House on Queen Street. I’ve got two words for you: Sharon Stone. She reminded me a little of Madonna in this movie. Dreadful acting and actually a poor screen presence but of course, perfect for the role.
Michael Douglas played the part of Nick Curran, yet another incarnation of the flawed American Police Detective. If we compare him to say, Woody Harrelson’s Marty in True Detective, there are obvious similarities in that the idea of the battle of good and evil within a person of the law hasn’t evolved. It’s as if we need the cops to have a major flaw otherwise we can’t accept them to be plausible.
After Basic Instinct, Douglas (who wasn’t exactly unknown – he’d played Gordon Gekko in 1987 and he’d been bankrolling major film projects since the 70s) sensibly turned down a role in the sequel and went on to position himself as a Hollywood stegaforce scoring Welsh lass Catherine Zeta Jones and entering King of the World – land.
The next year, he starred in Falling Down, a fairly undersung (although financially successful) movie, which I just plain love.
In Falling Down, Douglas plays at being an outsider having a frustrating time getting across town for his daughter’s birthday. In some initially believable sequences, he is stymied not only by traffic and conflicting systems across Los Angeles, but also by attitudes and projected racism: you must be …because you are…Fill in the blanks.
IMDB cites the Douglas character, William Foster as having the kind of day where all of the flaws of society are experienced, from being in gridlocked traffic, to poor or ignorant service at the Golden Arches. Indeed the depersonalisation of society is a Real Thing and Foster knows it too well.
Of course the twist in the tale is that Foster is mentally unwell, which suits the storyline in that he is actually not allowed near his daughter or estranged wife. This helps to conclude the movie by 120 minutes. The questions are left though about what the banal day to day slog of commuting and battling the public and private services we pay for leave us feeling – alienated, frustrated, angry and vengeful.
It’s about the little guy really – the you and me who have become disenfranchised and dumbed down. It’s not just about trying to get a breakfast meal after 10.30. That, I believe, is a metaphor for compliance for no good reason. What are the rules created for anyway?
Foster, through questioning ‘the rules’ becomes the great usurper of modern hierarchy; its user pays – roads from taxes that are clogged and get you nowhere, menus based around the labour availability of the company rather than the consumer needs and assumptions about race and gender that one or two have ruined for the rest of us.
I am thinking many of us can relate to the frustrations of this character. Not that we want to go smashing up our local dairy because of them, but because most of us are in a ‘compliance’ model of existence, only occasionally throwing our concerns the way of Facebook or Twitter or blogging them. Yes, that was intended irony.
What Falling Down illustrates, apart from pure entertainment, is the pent up minutiae of daily life: the ultimate insane conundrum of existence.
I don’t think Douglas has been in a better film than this since, other than Wonder Boys and if you blocked out Katie Holmes and Tobey Maguire, you’d have the perfect college movie.
I’m going off track. Watch Falling Down this weekend. It’s typically used as a Sky Movies Greats “we can’t be fucked updating our schedule because Game of Thrones is starting again and everyone will be watching Soho anyway” filler.
This blog post is dedicated to Aaron O’Brien.